Homeless Number Up in BID Area

Sunday, May 5, 2013

By Desiree

A quarterly homeless count conducted by the DowntownDC BID on Monday, April 15, identified 165 homeless individuals living on Downtown streets at night, a 14.6 percent increase from April 2012 and a 44.7 percent climb from the quarterly count performed in January 2013. The upward trend is likely attributable to the end of the hypothermia season, where the right to shelter has ended, forcing more homeless individuals to sleep outdoors.

“Although the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts an annual Point-in-Time count every January, the quarterly count is very significant,” said David Kamperin, the BID’s director of Public Space Management. “Once we engage with individuals, it’s not unusual that we are then able to assist those asking for further help and follow-up care, as 12 percent of the respondents did during this count. This is a first step toward moving the chronically homeless into permanent supportive housing.”

The quarterly counts have four main objectives: to document the state of homelessness; identify trends and changes taking place among Downtown’s homeless population; address any unmet needs stated by individuals; and justify additional funding and resources that individuals can use.

What the results of the April 2013 count revealed about Downtown’s homeless population:

  • 68.5% were male; 20 percent female (the gender of 11.5 percent was unknown)
  • 57 percent were African American; 12.1 percent Caucasian; 1.8 percent Hispanic; and 0.6 percent Asian (the race of 28.5 percent of the respondents was unknown)
  • 8.5 percent were veterans
  • 22.5 percent admitted to having health issues
  • 3 percent had some form of employment
  • 6.7 percent stated they had recently stayed in a shelter

BID staff used the Field Asset Management Mobile Application to record such information as the location, race, gender, and age of individuals experiencing homelessness. McPherson Square continued to be an area with a high concentration of homeless individuals. This is because city parks often serve as a safe haven and are accessible public space for the homeless.

Besides the annual and quarterly counts, this year the BID began conducting daytime counts of homeless individuals and panhandlers to have a baseline of day versus nighttime activity. The April 2013 count shows 131 homeless individuals on Downtown streets during the day—a 77% increase from March 2013. All surveys are conducted in conjunction with Pathways to Housing DC.

Both Pathways, which jointly manages the Downtown Homeless Services Team—the city’s only non-governmental, clinically based outreach group dealing with chronic homelessness—and the BID continue to provide daily outreach and coordination for homeless services, as well as education, consultation, and resources for businesses in the BID area.

The Homeless Services Team has worked for five years to reduce the number of people living on Downtown streets and will continue to use a pragmatic, street-to-independence outreach program—known as Housing First—to move the chronically homeless into permanent supportive housing. You can read about their successes on the BID website.

About five volunteers participated in April's quarterly count, which started at 10:30 p.m. and ended between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. In addition to members of the BID’s Downtown Homeless Services Team and BID staff—including the Downtown Safety/Hospitality and Maintenance (SAM) employees—crisis intervention officers from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) helped conduct the homeless count. The results of the count are available on the BID website.